In the super-stacked Lightweight division, Mark Bocek serves as a kind of measuring stick for those hoping to break into the top 15. He's become a reliable commodity since a rocky early start in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), where he was taken out by Frankie Edgar and then submitted by Mac Danzig.
Since then, Bocek has improved, showing serviceable striking along with a solid ground game on both ends. And he'll get another opportunity to showcase his evolving skills when he takes on John Alessio at UFC 145 tonight (April 21, 2012) at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
Alessio returns to the world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion as a substitute for Matt Wiman, and the Canadian has won 10 of his last 11 in an impressive streak to land the spot. Both men are grapplers to the core, using striking mainly to set up tie-ups and takedown attempts. Striking is a means to an end, which is putting foes on the mat and outworking them from there.
Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC 145 fight between Mark Bocek vs. John Alessio:
The biggest factor in this fight is Alessio's weight cut. Previously a Welterweight in a career that's spanned 48 fights back to 1998, he battled Pat Miletich in 2000 in his UFC debut, losing by arm bar. That's a testimony to his adaptability and persistence that he's been able to stay in the game at this level for this long.
However, given that he was a decent-sized 170-pounder, and his age (32), it's hard to see him making this cut without some serious impacts to his stamina. The weight-cutting trend in MMA has created a pressing trend for fighters to drop weight classes to get their foot in a door, usually to pry it open. But the track record of fighters dropping weight classes, especially well into long careers, is a rough one.
Bocek pushes the pace against opponents and a fast start will definitely be to his advantage. Alessio's got to assert his size and strength advantage early and, if possible, land something big on the feet that will allow him to stun Bocek and then shoot for a takedown. Bocek's exceptionally spry and quick and will utilize lateral movement to set up angles and avoid damage on the feet -- any kind of a brawling, big-man fight is to Alessio's advantage, assuming he has the gas tank to sustain it.
If Alessio could make a reasonable cut to 155 pounds, I'd give him a good shot at beating Bocek. Alessio gave a prime Diego Sanchez an outstanding scrap several years ago, and strong and athletic enough to deny Bocek's edge in quickness and grappling pedigree.
However, everything points toward Bocek. He's been very active at a high level of competition, and win or lose, recent bouts have proven that Bocek is an exceptionally tough out. He'll feel out Alessio in the opening round and eventually wear down Alessio with a blend of simple one-two before transitioning into tie-ups, scrambles and takedowns. Over three rounds, it will prove too much, as Alessio tires down the stretch and absorbs increasing punishment from his back.
Bocek via unanimous decision
Be sure to join MMAmania.com this evening for LIVE, detailed UFC 145 results of all the "Jones vs. Evans" pay-per-view (PPV) action. It will include blow-by-blow coverage of the Facebook video stream, FX "Prelims" bouts, and of course, the PPV broadcast. We'll start RIGHT HERE at around 7:00 p.m. ET and carry straight on through early Sunday morning.
See you then!
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst or firstname.lastname@example.org